Sunday, November 11, 2012
It Takes a Village to Make Bruce's Music
My sister called me in the early fall in great excitement, with the news that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had announced that they would be playing in my hometown of Rochester, NY, on a special date (at least to me) - my birthday. I’m not one to ignore an excellent coincidence, so I found out what to do to get tickets and decided that this year, my birthday money would not be used to buy a Tom Bihn Swift. This year I would go see Bruce Springsteen, and take my husband with me.
My sister and brother-in-law are long time Bruce fans, and have gone to several concerts. R. and I were Bruce virgins, however. This would be our first (and possibly only) time to get the full-bore Bruce experience. J. filled me in on what I would have to do: register with Ticketmaster, and be ready with finger poised over my trackpad button at the moment that Ticketmaster made the tickets available for sale. I was ready at the appointed time, and successfully nabbed two tickets in the nosebleed section of the arena. It was a harrowing experience, though. I had to wait in a queue with an announced delay that kept getting longer before my appointed turn arrived, and I had to successfully solve three (yes, three!) vicious captchas. Bidding on a hotly contested item during the last minute of an Ebay auction comes closest as a comparable adrenaline-eliciting experience. I prevailed, however, with seats that might be high up, but that would command an excellent view of the entire stage. I was happy.
J. also managed to buy two seats way up high, plus a few standing floor admissions. Then she started to deal. She bought 4 seats that were very close to the stage from a friend who had just been laid off, and could no longer afford to go to the concert. She found buyers for our other seats (at cost or at a slight loss - J. is the anti-scalper), making a few other people very happy, and upgrading us to seats a lot closer. We were ready!
Hurricane Sandy came ashore on October 29, wreaking havoc on property and schedules, and we wondered if the show would go on. The equipment and musicians were in Rochester, but Bruce was in Pittsburgh. Fortunately they were able to postpone the concert only 24 hours, to Halloween night. R. and I jiggered our schedules, and I spent my birthday evening at a county budget hearing, prepared to defend our agency’s funding if necessary. The next day, we were off to Rochester to find out what the Bruce experience is all about.
The seats that J. was able to get for us were excellent. This is what we saw after we were seated:
The four of us were very happy people. J. told us that she had never been so close.
The concert was as good as you would expect from a world-class musician with a devoted fan base. It was 3 1/2 of nearly non-stop music. Bruce introduced every member of the band and talked about the devastation of the Jersey shore, and his confidence that the region will rebuild. J. expected a talk about the election, but that didn’t happen. There wasn’t a lot of talk. Bruce spent his time singing his heart out for us.
The fans gave him their hearts in return. R. and I were probably the most detached people in the room. I like Bruce’s music very much and own several albums, but it stays in rotation with a lot of other music, and I have never made a close study of his songs. Just about everyone else knew every word of every song, and exactly when to raise their hands high. The level of love between artist and audience was impressive and moving. Bruce bent down to touch the hands of his fans whenever he went walkabout, and the fans waved signs, many artfully made. Bruce even did a trust fall into the crowd from a walkway halfway out in the floor section of the arena, and his fans - we - body surfed him back to the main stage. In many ways, the concert had the feeling of a religious revival, between the fervor of the audience, the intensity of the performance, and the grounding of the songs in the concerns of everyman.
The technology of the concert fostered the connection between audience and artist. The sound was excellent, rich, clear, and loud enough to be rock-n-roll but not loud enough to blast you back in your seat and destroy your hearing. There were no towering columns of speakers, and there were three large video displays with a carefully curated and artistic video presentation of the concert, so everyone could see clearly what was happening. A shot from a screen, during a slow, intimate song:
To make Bruce’s music, to present this emotionally stirring and satisfying experience to an arena full of fans takes quite a crew. I counted:
- 17 musicians on stage, including Bruce. The loss of Clarence Clemons has been filled with 5 brass players, including Clarence’s nephew Jake Clemons on tenor sax.
- 6 people on the sound board (including a woman!).
- 4 videographers.
- a couple of guitar wranglers.
- all the unseen people - the video director editing the video display as the concert happened, the large crew of techs and roadies waiting to take it all apart, others I don’t know about.
And - the audience, 12,000 strong that night. The emotional discharge of a great performance can only happen when the audience engages completely with an artist who has respect for audience, fellow musicians, and crew alike.
Once again I thought I was checking an item off of my life list, only to find that the item is still there. I would go see Bruce Springsteen again.
I’ll wrap this up with a few more pics from R.’s and my iPhones.
The concert underway.
Yes, we were close.
Very, very close. Bruce is bonding with Jake Clemons.
Taking the time to touch some hands.